The 'Dancing with the Stars' champ recalls his early years in 'My Journey'

By Robyn Ross
Updated November 10, 2015 at 12:00 PM EST

You’d never guess it, but five-time Dancing With the Stars champ Derek Hough was once intimidated by the thought of teaching celebrities how to tango.

“When you’re a dancer, especially a ballroom and Latin dancer, it’s a very small world you live in and it’s this little bubble,” he shares in episode 2 of our new series, “My Journey.” “All of a sudden we’re on this national stage with millions of people watching and on top of that we’re working with celebrities. So you have to come in and act like you know what you’re doing and act like you’re in charge and you’re the boss and you’re trying to tell this celebrity that you’re a fan of how to dance. … It was like, fake it until you become it.”

Hough, who moved to London when he was 12 to study with dance instructors Corky and Shirley Ballas, says he never imagined then – or even now — this would be his career. “I don’t think at any point did I ever think dancing was going to be my life and even now I still don’t think it’s the case,” he says. “I really enjoy the competition aspect of it and the structure … and having a career goal and knowing if I train and I worked really hard then I could obtain that goal.”

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Joining the ABC competition program as a pro in season 5, Hough has had his share of talented partners, but there’s one he calls extraordinary: Paralympian Amy Purdy.

“I got so used to [dancing with her], but when you step back and realize … that it was pretty remarkable,” he says. “We literally had to invent and work with prosthetic doctors to create different feet and legs and that was pretty extraordinary. For me, it was more extraordinary to see her eyes light up when she realized she could do things she never thought she could do.”

From moving abroad to winning the Mirror Ball Trophy, it’s been an incredible ride for Hough so far. “I always envisioned being on a stage in front of thousands of people and I always day-dreamed, especially [living] in London on the train,” he shares. “It’s cool to look back and think, man, I had these dreams and visions and they’re coming true.”

Watch episode 2 of My Journey with Derek Hough above and head here to watch the rest of the series.

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Dancing With the Stars

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